… The fact that I still get almost daily emails about this one post proves to me there’s a need for practical relationship advice. It makes sense there’s such a need, what with the fracturing of the traditional family and free for all feminism.
Remember taking Home Economics in school? Yeah, me neither. The advice I got instead, through my health/sex-ed classes, was that women can “love like men”, which is code for being promiscuous. This ideal also hurts men, in that it implies men can only express love through sex. Hence, so much female confusion and frustration when they become sexually active outside of marriage.
Let’s talk about expressing love and having sex.
I get asked a lot, as a single person, about the “lack of love” in my life. How do I cope? Do I get lonely? Am I fulfilled? How do I express and experience love?
The implication here is that single people practicing chastity are not experiencing love. Also, it implies the only way two people can express love for each other is through sex. I would ask them, in turn, how they think married people show their spouses love outside the bedroom.
Can you have love without sex? Of course you can! Think about all the important people in your life right now that you love dearly. Are you having sex with them all? Ew. Creepy. Of course you aren’t. Having sex with someone is not the only way we show love. If you think it is you may have a very narrow and perversely warped definition of what true love is.
Lastly, and probably most bizarrely, is the idea that married love is the only type of love that exists. If you aren’t married, than you must be living a loveless existence. Catholics know the value of the consecrated single life and religious vocations, but even still, single people continue to be viewed as a strange anomaly.
Lisa Hendey thoughtfully asks her single readers, Is Conscious Celibacy a “Yes” to Love?
Let’s talk simply about unmarried folks. How do they say, “Yes!” to love?
It would be my contention that they affirm their love for themselves and for God through their choice to live a faithful single life. Additionally, many of the single folks I know are in a better position to serve those around them in their communities…
I like that she included that bit about affirming love for ourselves. Because that’s really what being faithful to Church teaching on celibacy and chastity is – an act of love; love and respect for the Church and God, but just as important, love and respect for ourselves.
Healthy sex is the physical act of intimacy between a husband and wife. Anything outside that is unhealthy sex. Premarital sex is unhealthy and damaging. Accepting unhealthy affection for the sake of experiencing affection is not an act of “liberation” or “sexual freedom”. It’s also not an act of love, but rather, disrespect.
Just this week, I received four separate emails from various woman seeking advice about their partners. Each one wondering about their boyfriends intentions; however, one in particular struck me painfully. She didn’t understand why her boyfriend would want to live with her and share her bed but didn’t want to get married. Surely, he loved her, she stated. I replied back asking how he expresses his love, and how could she be so sure of his genuine love for her?
And so we’ve come to believe that sex = love. Or rather, to fully love someone you must be having sex with them. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it?
Because we’ve come to devalue other expressions of love as inferior to sex, it becomes unfathomable to think a person in relationship can even experience love outside of having sex with them. Which leads to the common thinking that us non-sex-having single folks must not be experiencing love at all.
So Lisa asks, how do unmarried folks say “yes” to love.
Well, aside from remaining celibate, I am open to love in a plethora of ways to a great many people – my son, my family, my friends, and yes, even strangers. I’m quite certain that God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves meant pretty much everyone, not just the obvious spouses and children.
If you are truly a follower of Christ then you love period. You love the Lord, His Church, yourself, and everyone you encounter. Married or single, everyone is called to experience and express love. That’s why I am always bemused by the thinking that single people are loveless or not fully experiencing love.
Probably the most wonderful thing about being single is having my definition of love grandly expanded, as well as learning countless ways to express this love. I truly believe my singleness and celibacy is a gift that places me at an advantage to greatly experience love in ways that most married people don’t often get to experience.
This is why I believe premarital sex is so damaging to relationships. When women open their relationship up to sexual activity before marriage, they close themselves off from the spiritual growth and maturity that comes from learning the many different ways to express love and feel loved. Love has so many dimensions and isn’t just experienced through marriage or sex. Illustrating that point is this eloquent comment left on Lisa’s blog in response to her post.
I am a single, 26 year old gay man. I wouldn’t say that I have chosen a celibate life, but rather that I endeavor to live chastely, in accordance to the teachings of my church (which takes an orthodox view on sex and marriage), and as a practical result, I am celibate. If I had my own way, I’d be searching for a husband, because I feel a deep desire to “choose love” in the form of a romantic relationship. Instead I choose to live faithfully, because I ultimately believe that my desire to love and be loved finds its ultimate fulfillment in my relationship with Christ. In this sense, my choice does affirm your contention that I am choosing to honor myself and God…
… A couple years ago a dear friend of mine, a supernumerary of Opus Dei, gave me advice that has been very helpful me. He said that the truest way to grow in my love of the Lord (the point of faithful chastity) was to love my neighbors and to dedicate myself to being love in the world. I think this gets at what you suggest about single folk being able to choose love through service and engagement within our communities – how we love our neighbors becomes an act of devotion to a God we are trusting; a way of drawing close, and at the same time also opening ourselves to receive the philadelphic love of our community. It is also a pathway towards creating an identity beyond sexuality and singleness which is empowering and enlivening.
Isn’t that beautiful?
“…a pathway towards creating an identity beyond sexuality and singleness which is empowering and enlivening.”
Moving beyond sexuality is empowering and enlivening, ladies. Take note.